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When a friend’s child ran up to us at a dinner party with a shocked look on her face and proceeded to describe what one of the older boys had “accidentally” stumbled upon on the Internet, we realized that the time had come to impose some serious restrictions on Web activity in our house. Enter Net Nanny, recently available for Macs, which helps you limit access to the Internet’s darker corners. And while there are parental controls built into OS X, they may not be strict enough.
Configuring Net Nanny is fairly straightforward, considering the levels of filtering you need to set up. An administrator sets up individual password-protected accounts. In addition to blocking sites that contain porn, Net Nanny can also disable sports, gambling, gaming, and auction sites, among other categories, and can redirect the searcher to a family-friendly website of your choosing.
Net warden? Maybe, but you can decide how intrusive you need the app to be. And with the Net Nanny securely in place, parents can go back to doing whatever it was they were doing while their children surf the Web safely.
Net Nanny spies, thwarts, and tattletales--just what you want in your new Websitter.
The app has smart filters that can recognize the difference between salacious and educational content--looking up “breast cancer,” for example. You can also configure accounts to block streaming video (no more YouTube) or peer-to-peer access (adios, illegal file-sharing). Antipredator mode blocks inappropriate language in chat sessions.
Once you’ve set up the parameters for each user, you can administer Net Nanny from any Internet-connected computer using the Remote Management feature. Net Nanny will also email you logs of your kids’ online roaming--with screenshots--although we had trouble getting this to work because our email provider requires a secure connection for outgoing mail, and the app doesn’t support certain secure email connections. Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail all require secure TLS or SSL connections, for example, so you should check with your email provider if this feature is important to you. Or you can simply look at the Net Nanny’s Overview screen, which provides a settings summary and usage report.
Net Nanny can be very strict, blocking all but the most G-rated sites (a Harry Potter website was blocked because it mentions alcohol), so you may need to manually enter sites you want to enable. And don’t forget your password, or you will have to reinstall Mac OS X to reset it.